Official speeches and statements - January 28, 2016
My visit to India has two chief objectives.
The first objective is to strengthen the strategic partnership between France and India. It was concluded in 1998, but has continuously grown stronger ever since. And today it is the most valuable and necessary of the treaties. But we’ve got to make sure it’s not just a set of recommendations, indeed even obligations, but a set of actions for our security in particular.
DEFENCE AND SECURITY COOPERATION
France and India are two democracies, very great democracies. I was talking about the values we advance - thus we’re number one targets for terrorists, since they don’t accept either freedom or democracy, any more than they do culture. We must cooperate even more when it comes to security, and going beyond the military equipment we can promote or make available to our Indian partner (I’m thinking of our Rafale planes), I’m thinking of cyber security, I’m thinking of equipment which, precisely, can help protect our respective areas, but also allow us to act when the world itself is attacked. Quite apart from everything that these discussions on our defence industry can produce in terms of employment and business, this equipment is symbolic: it’s about linking our two countries and making sure we can act together for the world’s security and have this form of mutual trust.
The second objective of my visit concerns the implementation of the decisions we took at the Paris Climate Conference. In December, all the countries made commitments, with stages - the 2020 stage, the 2024 stage - ultimately, in terms of human existence, all those stages are very close together. But if we consider the level of pollution experienced by our cities and the disaster risk - it would seem that last year was the hottest mankind has experienced -, we mustn’t waste any time, we must move even faster than planned. And France wants to build the post-carbon world with India by launching projects as of now. This was the tenor of the discussions we had with Indian and French CEOs - and I extend greetings to the Forum’s two co-chairs -, and we can now make use of French companies’ presence in India - I recall that there are 1,000 French companies, making my country the third-largest investor here in India. So let’s make use of this tremendous network, which has created a bond of solidarity and trust, so that we can invest more in the coming years.
FRENCH INVESTMENT/SMART CITIES PROGRAMME
I’ve set a target: $1 billion of extra investment per year in India from French businesses. And we can even move more quickly: $8 billion over the next three years. Several areas were discussed: smart cities, first. As a major emerging country, India is experiencing rapid urbanization. You’re the world’s most populated country and inevitably you’ll have to build new cities. You already have nine cities with more than four million inhabitants and significant investment needs which you yourselves have put a figure on: 680 billion for the next 20 years. So, as in Chandigarh, we must create new cities and, if you’d like to, we’ll build them together.
Prime Minister Modi, you have launched a major five-year programme to build 100 smart cities, in conjunction with local authorities. We ourselves are stakeholders in this plan and this is the thrust of the agreements signed with Nagpur and Puducherry. Chandigarh has mobilized over the past few months, consulting its population, and was selected to be part of this major programme. Well, France will be actively involved with the French Development Agency.
In the energy field we, the Indians and the French, also want to be the leaders in innovation, implementation and development. So, with you, we want to fully contribute to the target you’ve set of reducing India’s carbon intensity and producing more of your energy - 40% - in the form of renewables. And there too, solar will be the main area.
Many businesses accompanying me today work in this sector; here too, contracts have been signed. It’s a transfer of technology, a sharing of technology so that Indian businesses and France can then export this expertise and this capability all over the world.
In another area too - transport - India also has huge needs: rail transport, maritime transport, road transport. I know there have been significant contracts here, too, for the provision of locomotives and also to create a factory that will manufacture them. And we want to have a new partnership for revamping train stations between our best operator, SNCF, and Indian Railways.
But transport also includes maritime transport and what France can offer. France has the second-largest maritime area in the world: we’re not the world’s most populated country but we’re one of the countries - perhaps soon the world’s leading maritime country. That’s a considerable asset, it’s a significant responsibility, and we have the best companies in this field.
There are also other transport sectors: space - we transport information and technology into space. I don’t want to go on too long, because ultimately we have many areas of cooperation, going beyond even the implementation of COP21, although everything is in COP21. But we have so many things to do in the areas of health and agrifoods, and partnerships too for civilian nuclear energy.
I want to conclude my remarks. We’re at a moment when there are question marks again over the global economy. And what yesterday was a trend that could have been a good thing for the global economy is becoming an additional risk: I’m talking about the price of oil. We must stabilize the markets, because businesses need to have stable prices for the sake of their investments. We know the oil price today is abnormally low, but we also know there’s an imbalance between supply and demand. So we must ensure we provide a price target - energy prices, carbon prices - so that investments can be successfully carried out.
Slowdowns are being observed in a number of major economies like China, but ultimately what are we talking about? About an economy where growth was 9% and may fall to only 6%. And the slowdown it’s experiencing will no doubt be short-term, and if it were structural it would create other benefits, i.e. higher domestic consumption. Then there’s India, which is experiencing very significant growth thanks to the reforms carried out. And so my message is very simple: France has confidence in the Indian economy, France thinks it’s here that a number of new policies are being thought up, it’s here that new innovations are being conceived, with increasingly better-trained young people. It can share in both prosperity here and growth in Europe and in France, if we can work together, if we can also exchange talent and skills, and that wish has also been expressed here among business leaders.
So my trip, my visit, the second one - this one exceptional - is confirmation of the long-standing relationship we have between our two countries. We share the same values, the same principles, and we have the same hopes: progress, wealth distribution and the fight against poverty. And by innovating we’ll win those victories, and because I believe in India’s ability to promote its innovations I’m confident, once again, in the relationship I’ve established with Prime Minister Modi.
Well, he has the same impatience I often express to my government: we must move quickly, we must move even more quickly, and even that is too slow. Thank you.
Q. - Peace negotiations for Syria will be starting on Friday under the aegis of the UN. What are you expecting from them?
THE MINISTER - We hope they’ll get under way. I’ve worked a lot on this subject, even while being in India; yesterday I was on the phone several times to John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, and as we speak - it’s Tuesday morning - at some point today I’ll be on the phone to Sergei Lavrov, the Russian [Foreign] Minister, the head of the moderate opposition, Mr Hijab, and Staffan de Mistura, who is tasked with handling the issue on the UN’s behalf.
We’re calling for the negotiations to begin, because the real solution to the Syria tragedy - 260,000 dead, half the Syrian population displaced or abroad, an appalling tragedy - is political. So there must be negotiations. But there are very difficult issues to resolve: how will the delegations be composed?
Q. - Which opposition should be presented?
THE MINISTER - Just as it’s not for the opposition to say who will be in the government delegation, so it’s not for the Syrian government to say who will be in the opposition delegation.
Q. - And isn’t that resolved yet?
THE MINISTER - It’s under way. What’s called the "Riyadh group" - I won’t go into the details -, led by Mr Hijab himself, who is a former prime minister of Bashar [al-Assad] and therefore knows Syria very well but didn’t agree to the direction Bashar was taking, is certainly a representative group.
There’s another very important issue, namely that it’s very difficult to have negotiations when the Russians and Bashar’s Syrians are bombing towns and innocent civilians. There’s another problem, which is: what’s the content of those negotiations? Everything must be discussed, particularly what’s called the transitional government, because in Geneva a few years ago and in Vienna recently we agreed there should be a transition, a new constitution and elections within 18 months. We, the French, say that Bashar al-Assad can’t be Syria’s future, because he’s responsible for so many deaths, and that if we want Syrian unity he’s not the one who can ensure it. (...)
Q. - The Russian Foreign Minister said he’d refuse to accept the Kurds not being present, which the Turks clearly refuse.
THE MINISTER - There’s a simple rule, namely that it’s not for one party to dictate the composition of another’s delegation. (...)
Q. - The same Russian minister said that Mr Putin hadn’t demanded Mr Assad’s departure.
THE MINISTER - I’m not part of those conversations. What I see is the Russians supporting Bashar al-Assad - that’s certain - and the fact that they told us they were going to carry out a lot of strikes against Daesh [so-called ISIL]. Every time they strike Daesh terrorists, it’s a good thing, but they should be carrying out more strikes against Daesh, and stop striking the moderate opposition.
Q. - He also said they’ve turned the situation around today.
THE MINISTER - There’s no doubt they’ve assisted Bashar al-Assad, of course, but does that mean they’ve really helped weaken Daesh’s terrorists? That’s quite another matter.
Q. - And are the Russians continuing to bomb civilians today?
THE MINISTER - Sadly, yes; as you know, various cities are under siege - Madaya has been talked about a great deal -, often by pro-regime Syrians, but very frequently with Russian support. The Russians have a role to play in bringing peace, but we’d like them to use their forces to fight Daesh terrorism.
Q. - Madaya’s humanitarian corridor still isn’t in place; is it a martyred city?
THE MINISTER - I’m afraid so. And one of France’s major demands when it comes to these negotiations is that, before they even get under way, there should be an end to the sieges of these cities. It isn’t just a bargaining chip, it’s an international legal obligation. (...)